ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF

To deliver inclusive and equitable climate action we need to amplify women’s voices

Climate change is an existential threat to our planet but its impacts aren’t yet felt in equal measure everywhere. Unprecedented natural disasters and extreme weather events are wreaking havoc, especially across the most vulnerable communities around the world.

As COP28 kicked off in Dubai last week, leaders and negotiators are gathering for crucial talks on how to tackle the climate crisis. The annual United Nations Climate Change Conference is an opportunity for world leaders, experts, journalists, activists, and representatives from civil society and international organizations to take stock of the global climate progress and agree on ambitious adaptation and mitigation actions.

Following the milestone adoption of a dedicated “loss and damage” fund at COP27, to assist vulnerable countries in responding to the adverse effects of climate change, COP28 is an important moment for the global community to ensure that the voices of those most affected by the climate crisis are heard and that inclusive and equitable action is taken. This applies particularly in Africa – a continent severely affected by the climate crisis despite contributing the least to greenhouse gas emissions – and where women suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change.

Frequent climate-induced natural disasters such as flash floods, droughts, and storms are hitting African communities hard and exacerbating existing problems in poorer and conflict-affected countries. With the livelihoods of so many people on the continent dependent on natural resources, climate shocks are devastatingly affecting their living conditions, wellbeing, and life prospects.

These unsettling realities are putting the lives of African women and girls at risk, many of whom rely on natural resources and climate-sensitive sectors for their livelihoods and to provide for their families. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 60% of women work in agriculture, producing a significant proportion of the continent’s food. With gender inequalities already weighing on women across the continent, the climate crisis is creating an additional burden that sees many of them face displacement, poverty, health risks, and gender-based violence, with immense consequences on their families and wider communities.

Against these odds, African women have demonstrated incredible resilience through their leadership and innovative climate solutions. As policy- and decision-makers, experts, and activists they are at the forefront of the efforts to create inclusive climate action that addresses the most pressing needs and priorities of women across the continent.

Among the leading women climate champions are Amujae Leaders who are trailblazing change in Africa and helping communities withstand the effects of climate change. As UN Climate Change High-Level Champion’s Special Advisor, Africa Director, Amujae Leader Bogolo Kenewendo is a leading advocate for climate action. She recently contributed to a proposal to unlock financing for a just and equitable climate transition on the continent.

Amujae Leader and Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr is shaping and shaking the climate action landscape in her country and further afield. She has pioneered ambitious sustainable development plans and led city-level initiatives to tackle environmental and climate challenges.

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr was recently elected co-Chair of C40 Cities alongside Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and will be heading the organization’s mayoral delegation to COP28 as a leading Global South voice in the fight against the climate emergency.

Passionate about climate action and elevating women’s voices in climate decision-making, Amujae Leader Chilando Nakalima Chitangala took part in the Africa Climate Summit earlier in the year where she discussed the effects of the climate crisis on urban dwellers. Amujae Leader Joanah Mamombe – a highly-recognized gender and human rights activist – is also at the forefront of climate advocacy calling for prioritizing the needs of rural women in adaptation plans and raising awareness of the dangers of land degradation and unsustainable agriculture practices.

Opening the space for women’s leadership in climate action will guarantee that women and girls are able to effectively address the impacts of climate change which disproportionately affect them. As the eyes of the world turn to COP28, we must ensure that the voices of African women leaders are amplified so that just, equitable, and inclusive climate action is delivered on our continent.

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